The permanent press
I'm going to get really into laundry
We’ve hit that period in the summer when the flowers are blooming and the front yard pretty much takes care of itself, even in the punishing, heavy heat.
I am quite behind on my weeding, but the vigorousness of the summer growth disguises how much I have fallen behind.
Once the house is less insane, I hope I can create some time in the coming weekends to getting my beds in order. Specifically, there is an aggressive porcelain-berry vine that is eating one of my side beds, and I am ready to deal with it.
At my mother’s behest, I recently read Patric Richardson’s book Laundry Love.
Richardson, a textile expert and self-professed “laundry evangelist,” really loves doing laundry. He loves it so much that he teaches laundry classes to desperate Minneapolis moms at the Mall of America. Richardson’s primary claims are (1) that you do not need to dry clean anything ever, which I love to hear, and (2) that you need only very simple ingredients to do your laundry and stain-treat garments properly (e.g., a plant-based detergent, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, laundry soap, sodium percarbonate).
Favorite tips from Laundry Love:
Stinky or sweaty-smelling garment? You don’t necessarily have to wash it! Spray vodka on the smelly area, let it air dry, and you’re good as gold. (The alcohol eats up the bacteria without leaving any spots.)
Always wash your clothes on the shortest possible cycle. Longer cycles don’t mean cleaner clothes, and it’s bad for most fabrics to be jostled around in water for too long.
You can wash cashmere and wool at home! Pin them up like little sausages in mesh laundry bags, and then launder as usual (but only once or twice a season, or if they really get stained). Air-dry on a rack.
Most clothes we buy can only be tossed in the dryer about 50 times before they start to wear out. To extend the lifespan of your clothes, air- or line-dry them.
After finishing this funny little book (which closes with an appendix of family recipes from Kentucky), I’ve been persuaded by the author’s fervor to get serious about my laundry game. I do so much of it; I ought to be better at it than I am.
My goals are to:
Get better at stain-treating so that we do less laundry and preserve clothes longer.
Air- or line-dry much more, for the sake of the planet and the longevity of our garments. And also because it makes me feel like a Willa Cather character. Like, I want to peer out from behind a giant linen sheet in the sun to see my bronzed boys walking slowly up the ridge, leading cows behind them, as they come announce to me their sudden betrothals to the lusty Czechoslovakian immigrant girls the farm over. You know what I’m talking about.
Outfit our laundry room/mudroom to make clothes maintenance more pleasant and possible. Floor space is at a premium in this utilitarian space, so I ordered this handmade wall-mounted accordion drying rack and after a dreadful installation process, that sturdy piece is now improving the laundry room. It will only be removed by nuclear blast.
Be ferociously tidy in the laundry room. Add art or beautiful objets to lift the spirits and elevate the chore.
Steam clothes more regularly so that I don’t look as much of a mess at work. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy ironing, but I can get more skillful at steaming.
Get an energy-efficient washer and dryer. OK, fine, this isn’t a goal so much as the #1 thing on my Christmas Wish List. Our old clunkers, which we inherited from the prior owners, still work, technically, but they are so wasteful, in terms of energy, and so inefficient at cleaning clothes that they’re basically undeserving of their names. The washer barely washes, and the dryer takes so long to dry that it’s almost not worth using.
I plan on learning a great deal more, as I am already wishing Richardson had a sequel, more specifically focused on clothes upkeep, repair, and maintenance (for example, how to properly darn socks, replace buttons, hem skirts), as well as maintenance of machines and optimal techniques for line-drying. I know I can learn all of these things from YouTube but I much prefer to read about them first. It is the particular brokenness that I carry.
The privilege of the chore
In a concluding chapter, Richardson discusses the privilege of doing laundry. This resonated with me, because it is such a gift to have my own washer and dryer to hate on, to have so many clothes that we need to launder them regularly and we don’t go naked when we do. He writes well about the dignity of having clean clothes and the sense of self-respect that it bestows.
I am learning more and more about how to properly care for and maintain what we have, so that we do not buy as much, and laundry seems to me to be a huge component of this, with three menfolk in the household who generate incredible quantities of soiled garments. In all of it, I find myself awash with gratitude, even as I fold the same T-shirt for the hundredth time.